‘Special Ops: Lioness’ Episodes 1 And 2 Review/Recap: What Is Cruz’s New Mission?

Taylor Sheridan’s newest thriller series is about a woman who recruits another woman for one of the most dangerous jobs known to mankind: infiltrating a family of militants to extract information. Zoe Saldana stars as Joe, a hard-boiled CIA agent who’s in need of a competent woman who can survive extreme torture, and she’ll go to great lengths to ensure that her cadet isn’t weak. With Laysla De Oliveira as the significant other protagonist, Special Ops: Lioness starts off strong with a balanced contrast of blood and broken bones and heart-aching drama. Here’s a recap of the two episodes that were released today, along with a review of this interesting new series.

Spoilers Ahead

What Kind Of Agent Does Joe Need?

When a CIA operative gets her cover blown, she’s captured and beaten by the militants she was spying on. Her handler, Joe, doesn’t have a choice but to launch a missile into the compound to kill the militants along with her mole so that she doesn’t divulge secrets. Joe is convinced that the female spies they need must not have a single identifiable mark on their bodies, including tattoos, because the previous mole was identified because of a tattoo. Moreover, she needs someone who’s so resilient and has a spirit so powerful that it won’t break even in the face of the harshest punishments imaginable.

Who Is Cruz?

A young woman working at a burger joint comes home to her abusive boyfriend and is struck across the face. The next morning, she decides she’s had enough and hits her boyfriend in the face with a frying pan before being chased by the bleeding man. She runs into a marine’s office and is protected by the imposing officer present there. This girl, with no family, no loved ones, and nothing to call her own except the name Cruz, decides to dedicate her life to the Marine Corps. Not only does she ace the written test, but she also awes everyone at the physicals. Cruz is enlisted and is met with Joe, who asks her to strip down to bare skin so that she can inspect her for tattoos, but Cruz makes sure to give her new employer an earful about the degradation she’s subjecting Cruz to.

What’s Cruz’s Mission?

Cruz is given an apartment to stay in, and her mission is to infiltrate into the circle of a woman named Aaliyah, a woman of the very powerful Amrohi family that plans to keep the US military distracted while they get richer. She needs to get closer to Aaliyah’s family so that she can eliminate the main target that the CIA is gunning for. Cruz quickly strikes up a friendship with Aaliyah. At night, Cruz can’t sleep because of the camera in her room that’s constantly watching her, and she goes for a run when two vans packed with masked, muscular people nab her and take her away to an unknown location.

How’s Joe’s Family Life?

Meanwhile, Joe’s own family is suffering as well because her eldest daughter Kate is getting into severe fights in school—a way of acting out to protest against her mother’s absence. Her husband, Neil, a doctor, gets punched in the face by a child’s father after informing the parents that their daughter won’t survive the brain tumor. Joe has to put on her worst self before her daughter to make her see that the world is much more difficult and harsh than her privileged mind can begin to comprehend. That night, both parents ignore phone calls from their respective offices as they’re sharing a moment of intimacy, while Cruz is tortured in the most inhumane ways possible.

What Happens To Cruz After She’s Kidnapped?

Waterboarding, psychological torture through blasting heavy metal, being blasted by a fire hose that strips her clothes off, and on top of that, a severe beatings—Cruz is subjected to all the usual CIA tricks. Joe later strolls into the interrogation room where Cruz is being held, only to be informed that Joe needs to know Cruz’s breaking point, and then proceeds to emotionally torture her to the point where Cruz is on the verge of tears. She then leaves, letting her know that round 2 is about to begin. The ‘torturers’ can’t proceed without signing a waiver because what follows is the kind of torture the CIA only talks about in rumors.

Joe couldn’t care less about a piece of paper because she needs to see how strong her mole can be, and a behemoth-like man walks in to begin round 2. He adds to the psychological torture by bringing up some child’s death, who seems to have been extremely close to Cruz. She fights back ferociously, but she is no match for a man that massive. Fed up with watching this senseless torture, the man inside the surveillance room with Joe calls the onslaught off, and Cruz takes the opportunity to break her assaulter’s nose. However, Joe is unsatisfied because she couldn’t find out Cruz’s breaking point to realize just how much torture she can withstand before she divulges everything.

Joe drops Cruz off at a home where the other marines live and lets her know that the torture Cruz was subjected to wouldn’t even begin to compare with what militants like Amrohis can do to her. Cruz receives a warm welcome from the other marines, one of whom makes her a smoothie because she’s lost a tooth, and others make space for her on the couch. When the others find out that she’s been subjected to the torture the CIA used to reserve for terrorists just to test her willpower, they decide to go wreak some havoc. The Marines barge into the bar, and the man who’d attacked Cruz is tased by one of the Marines. Cruz then puts him in a chokehold that could effectively kill the man unless Cruz is pulled away. Just then, she gets a call from Aaliyah.

What’s Next For Cruz?

Cruz tells Aaliyah that she’s been in a car wreck and looks messed up. Aaliyah invites her over the next day to hang out with her friends and asks her to bring a swimming costume—the more revealing, the better. Left without a choice, Cruz has to agree to what could be an immensely uncomfortable situation, and she decides to go shopping. Her next mission will be heading to the pool party thrown by Aaliyah so that she can get close to her and her family in an attempt to extract as much information as possible. However, gaining her trust won’t be easy, so Cruz will have to jump through multiple hoops, even if that includes getting into a bikini and frolicking around in the water with some strange men who will undoubtedly grope a woman if she’s in their vicinity. The next episode will tell us how well Cruz does on her newest mission and whether she’ll pass the first test.


Cruz is a lioness bar none in this action-packed thriller series that focuses on wild, feminine energy. She’s unhinged and unflinching about punishing anyone who hurts her, and Laysla’s brilliant facial expressions say as much. Not only does she seem to fit into the role of a female cutthroat spy with bubbling rage against wrongdoers, but she also pulls out all the stops to prove that it’s the Marine way or no way for her. Zoe Saldana earns the ire of the audience with her remorseless behavior towards the babyface Cruz, which speaks volumes of Zoe’s acting chops. Zoe’s character is relentless, not only in ordering the physical beatdown on this newest recruit but also in making such acidic jabs with her words that even the audience sitting at home feels queasy. Fast-paced and serious in every bit of the way, “Special Ops: Lioness” clearly lets the audience know that it’s not a slow-burning drama series and that there will be more broken bones and deaths than one usually expects in a female-led show.

Additionally, the show takes a detour in the middle and focuses on the family life of Joe to showcase how teens need to be disciplined the right way from an early age lest they grow up to be lawbreaking delinquents. However, the main focus here is on Cruz and how she can swerve her way through the myriad landmines that exist to detect spies like her. Already two episodes down, the series seems binge-worthy, and viewers can expect some classy content coming their way for a few weeks now.

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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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Additionally, the show takes a detour in the middle and focuses on the family life of Joe to showcase how teens need to be disciplined the right way from an early age lest they grow up to be lawbreaking delinquents. 'Special Ops: Lioness' Episodes 1 And 2 Review/Recap: What Is Cruz's New Mission?